Brand experience and customer experience are closely related but distinct concepts. In fact, understanding the distinction between them is key to creating a successful and sustainable marketing strategy. Here’s how to ensure you’re giving customers what they are looking for in 2022.
Brand Experience vs. Customer Experience
Brand experience is the overarching experience or “feeling” of an entire brand. It is the experience customers have when they encounter your brand, either because they have sought it out intentionally or because they’ve come across it “in the wild.” A brand experience is more about the personal, emotional connection customers develop with the concept of the brand itself, rather than a reaction to a specific product or service.
Customer experience is a more specific concept that encompasses the journey a customer goes on when they utilize a brand’s services or products. The definition is right there in the name: it’s quite literally what the customer experiences, including every step along the way from product and web design to purchase, customer service, and product use.
Both the brand experience and customer experience are crucial aspects of marketing, and, to be most effective, they must work seamlessly together. One way of thinking about this is that the brand experience sets the stage by creating expectations and customer experience delivers the performance.
Creating a Unified Experience
What does it look like to develop a strategy where brand experience and customer experience perform as a unified whole? It starts with getting rid of preconceived notions about siloing these functions.
It’s easy to see why many companies have traditionally considered brand experience and customer experience to be two separate functions. Brand experience is often more closely tied to marketing. Customer experience, on the other hand, is tied more closely to product design and customer service. However, if the two are kept separate, they can’t create a unified experience and message—and customers will notice.
The starting point for crafting a whole, unified experience is defining a set of values that shape the brand at every level and across every function. Some helpful questions to consider in this process are:
- What does the company stand for?
- Who is its ideal customer base? Who is its current customer base?
- What does it offer?
- What sets it apart from the competition?
- What does it want customers to think of when they think about it?
Once company values are defined, the hard work of translating them into policies and actions can begin. While it can be difficult to ensure every minute detail of the customer experience is value-driven and relates to your brand experience, your customers will notice the effort. When the same values drive every move, it’s much easier to ensure that the whole experience ties back to the same elements, thus creating a more stable, coherent picture in customers’ minds.
Building a strategy based on values also helps avoid the dreaded experience gap: when customers expect one thing based on brand promises and experience something different when interfacing with the company’s products or services. An experience gap creates a disconnect and hurts the brand’s reputation. Focusing on the brand’s actual values and how best to convey them at every step of the process, instead of overpromising or using buzzwords, is essential. By ensuring every part of the customer experience correlates with the brand experience and values, you can also ensure customers have a net positive experience that meets or exceeds expectations. This eliminates the experience gap and increases the likelihood of returning or even recommending the brand to others.
Building Brand Loyalty
Positive experiences are critical for the future of any brand. According to research by PwC, 59% of customers will walk away from a brand – even one they already like and feel some loyalty to – after several bad experiences. For 17% of customers, just a single bad experience can mean the loss of their business permanently. So, once you’ve tackled the experience gap by harmonizing your brand experience and customer experience through a focus on your brand’s core values, how do you build brand loyalty? Traditionally, customer-facing brand loyalty initiatives have often been built around the “loyalty program.” We’re all familiar with the usual elements: loyalty cards, rewards programs, and the occasional event or sale. Today’s customers, however, are looking for something more.
Indeed, today’s consumers have a different perspective on brands and brand loyalty, overall. A 2021 Accenture study looked closely at “reimagined” consumers – today’s consumers whose relationship with branding and marketing has evolved. The research found that 77% of customers want brands to anticipate and meet changing needs, not just provide a superficial product or service. These same customers are also looking for improved customer service: over half of surveyed consumers said they would switch brands if their current preferred brand didn’t provide clear, easy customer service options and answers.
In a world where customers increasingly expect a personalized experience, building brand loyalty requires a more immediate and individualized loyalty strategy. In other words, customers want brands to cultivate a “relationship” with them rather than subject them to an impersonal process. A brand loyalty strategy that taps into these customer desires combines obvious, traditional, tangible benefits, like discounts and rewards,e with more unique items and experiences, like “exclusive” access or customized options.
The gold standard is a brand experience strategy that marries branding and customer experience to create an overall positive impression of the brand that goes beyond “making a good product” or “having good customer service.” With such a strategy, an organization can influence consumers to agree with the simple yet powerful statement, “I like this brand.”
By Dawn Russell
About the Author
As Managing Director of Executive Search for Blue Rock Search, Dawn brings her Social Talent Black Belt skills and deep analytic abilities to bear, developing quality talent pipelines for a variety of diverse industries focused in Customer Experience. Dawn is the only Director of Executive Search at Blue Rock Search that is equally knowledgeable in three of our four specialties including Customer Experience, Franchise, and Human Resources.